“Most interviews I have been very displeased with because, obviously, you don’t have any control. You can be very merry in an interview and it can come across as being very dour. Or you can say something flippantly which will be written in blood in the music press and it sounds as though you’re deadly serious. You’re throwing yourself on the mercy of a journalist who can be friendly during the interview but can turn out to be something of a behemoth in print.” (Morrissey, 1983)
On the 15th of November 2017, Morrissey gave an interview in LA to Der Spiegel journalist, Juliane Liebert. https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/morrissey-ueber-brexit-kevin-spacey-und-merkels-fluechtlingspolitik-a-1178545.html
The vast bulk of the interview (in the audio version, released later) is about animals & music. His main political purpose is getting abattoirs banned – ‘I reserve my vote for the political party that will get rid of the abattoir’. He doesn’t like a generic commercial pop sound – ‘When you hear the radio, because everybody sounds the same, and they use the same, uhh, uhh, counterfeit emotions and they don’t have a natural voice, you don’t know who you’re listening to’.
In the version of it published on the 18th November 2017, most of it is cut, and a social/media firestorm accused him of threatening to kill Trump, being a rape apologist for Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, loving Brexit, and hating refugees.
The Trump comment was hypothetical.
JL – I was taught, like, I’m not supposed to ask about politics, but some songs I like because, I want to talk about a few songs… like if you actually stay in bed a lot and if you actually think people shouldn’t follow the news anymore?
Morrissey – I believe they must not. For their own mental health, they must not, they must stop watching the news, because it’s, social engineering to a degree, whereby it’s only about control. It’s not about information. It is not the news. It’s about control and people no longer watch.
JL – For me personally, as I work as a journalist, I’m really tired, like even in Germany, you read about Trump every day, like every fucking day, and I feel like that’s what made him big.
Morrissey – He received so much attention, so much attention, whereas other candidates like Bernie Sanders and so on, did not…. all people had in their minds was Trump, Trump, Trump, making America great again, which is absurd.
JL – if, a moral question, if there was a button and if you press it, he drops dead, would you press it or not?
Morrissey – I would for the safety of the human race. It’s nothing to do with my personal opinion of his face, or his life, or his family, but in the interests of the human race, if I would, yes. I think he’s a terrible, terrible scourge and as I say, he’s the biggest threat to national security in America, consequently to the rest of the world.
JL – Yeah, like in Germany cos there were two things like, watching the news, we saw it wouldn’t happen, like one was like Trump, and the other was like Brexit. But like you’re said to be pro-Brexit. Is it true?
Morrissey – Well, it isn’t true. I was fascinated by the Brexit result because it was such an incredible strike for Democracy. The people said yes, even though Westminster said no, and the political elite and the establishment said no, no, no, we will remain with the EU. The public ignored the media, ignored all the hypnosis, ignored all the fear- mongering, and they said we will decide for ourselves, and this is why Brexit is very, very important, because it’s the biggest strike in the history of British politics for many, many years, whether you agree with Brexit or not, is a separate issue, but I was very, very proud of the people of England for ignoring the BBC, ignoring Sky News who were fear-mongering and telling everybody if we leave the EU will will all die instantly. I’m not kidding. That’s what was happening. So I felt very proud of the people. I felt very proud.
JL – I read some reviews that said that Jackie, the song, is like pro-Brexit, this it is the Union Jack.
Morrissey – Well, this is the silliness that one has to put up with.
The conversation about rape was more complex – he didn’t talk about Harvey Weinstein at all – and he wasn’t defending Kevin Spacey, so much as saying the version of the story he’d heard, didn’t sound true (to him) – which, in fact, it wasn’t (he gets the details wrong).
JL: as we’re in Hollywood, did you follow the whole scandal that came now with, like, Weinstein and Me Too and all those things.
Morrissey: uhh, to a point I did, but then it became uhh theatre and suddenly everybody’s guilty. Suddenly anybody who has ever said to another person “I quite like you”, suddenly they’re being accused of sexual harassment. But you have to keep it in perspective, because if you can’t say to somebody that you like them, then how will they ever know? But of course there are extreme cases and rape is revolting and any kind of physical attack is revolting. But we must keep it in perspective otherwise everybody on the planet is guilty. And everything. And we can’t constantly have this superior attitude about what you should do and what you are not allowed to do. Because then we’re all trapped, we can’t relax. And some people are very clumsy when it comes to romance and if they meet somebody, they’re very awkward, and they don’t know how to do it really and how to let someone know. So it can sometimes seem aggressive.
JL: If I like someone I ignore them for like 5 years.
Morrissey: Typical, that’s a typical response. And it’s dangerous, because it’s a waste of five years. But that’s, many people do that or if they see somebody they like they look away. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.
JL: What do you think that they cut Kevin Spacey out of films now?
Morrissey: I think it’s absurd because uhh, as far as I understand the situation, he was in a hotel room with a 14 year old. Well, Kevin Spacey was 26, the boy was 14, you have to wonder where the boy’s parents were. You have to assume that the boy had an inkling of what might possibly happen. I mean I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been, in my youth, in situations like that. Never. And I was always aware of how, where things could go. And if you’re in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware, where it could lead to, and you have to say why, why are we here, why aren’t we downstairs in the lobby… so it doesn’t quite ring true to me and it seems that he has been unnecessarily attacked.
JL: yeah, I’m also thinking about this whole thing with actresses. [in the printed version they lie about the question – SPIEGEL: Should that also apply to the actresses who went to the hotel room with Weinstein? – and make his answer appear to be about Weinstein’s victims, when it’s a general comment].
Morrissey: And you also must wonder if, people know exactly what’s happening and they go along with it. But then when it’s happened they find that they’re either embarrassed or they didn’t like it, so they then reverse it, and say I was ambushed, I was taken by surprise, I was dragged into the room. But if the incident had gone very well and they had really enjoyed it and it led to an incredible career, they wouldn’t mention it. And I hate to be that cynical because I hate rape and I hate attack, and I hate any sexual situation that is forced on a person against their will. But in many many situations you look at the circumstances and you think that the person who is called a victim is merely disappointed.
JL: Yeah, I think it’s important to, like keep justify up, that it’s still fair for everybody.
Morrissey: But also within the history of music and rock n roll, this entire history of groupies and people who throw, kids, that throw themselves at groups and stay in a hotel for the night, in the lobby, they want to be with those groups. And if you go through the history of music, everybody must be guilty of underage sex. So are you going to throw everybody in prison?
JL: Yeah, David Bowie, like, took the virginity of a 14 year old girl.
Morrissey: Yes, I think that was very common then.
JL: Did you ever have been in a situation like that?
JL: Not even from your, older people?
Morrissey: No. Never. Never. Never.
And – he doesn’t attack refugees. He doesn’t say immigration should be stopped. Or that refugees are rapists. Or any of the ‘inflammatory’ things that the press and social media (for and against) attributed to him. He just thinks that countries should have an identity, Empires are bad and that policies shouldn’t cause chaos.
JL – Do you think that provocation is an important part of such, of your art?
Morrissey – Provocation? Well, uhh, what is provocation? Is it stimulation?
JL – Like, em, I might be wrong but I think that, like you, of course you give your opinion about things, but I think sometime, you also, like I get the feeling, if the society says like this is good, or is it like you know there’s said things, I think like sometimes there’s a feeling you, like not fight against that, but say things in a way to make them think again, you know what I mean?
Morrissey – Yes, because we must open debate, whether it’s religion, and this goes back to the point you made about boycotting Israel, and so forth, there’ no point being like that. You have to sit together and listen to people and exchange ideas about every problem on the planet. You can’t simply say everything is black and white, I don’t want to listen to you, you don’t agree with me, so therefore you’re wrong. And that is the problem with most of the British press, that they, they, they will happily speak to you, but when the interview is in print, they correct your moral outlook. Which is no good, because that’s my moral outlook. And you came to see me, and you asked me, and I told you. But you can’t simply say that you’re wrong because you don’t feel the way I do. So provocation is too strong a word, but I do like to put the issue on the table.
JL – I wanted to ask you what is the last lie somebody taught about you, do you remember that?
Morrissey – Well, yes, this issue about I’ve written a song about Brexit. And isn’t this appalling and you shouldn’t do this, it really bleugh. This is absurd. The British press are very much like that, you can’t meet them halfway, they’re, it’s the looney left really, who are so extreme, and they have become like the third reich. They will not be swayed. And you cannot have an open opinion or a different opinion and it’s very, very boring, and it’s quite dangerous. But to hear that I’ve written a song about Brexit, and I’m demanding that everybody support Brexit. It’s exhausting. It’s very exhausting.
JL – Do you know Owen Jones, he is like…
Morrissey – I know of him, yes, yes. But people have become obsessed with where they stand politically and it’s usually very closed, in their mind, very very closed. Whether it’s right-wing or left-wing. But I don’t consider myself to be political, I’m apolitical. But I am a human being, living in the world today, and everything we do has a connection to politics. But I have never voted for any political party. I think Theresa May is absurd. I think Donald Trump is absurd.
JL – But you just have to look at their faces. Like, no, no not, on a superficial, but like people like, what they look like and who they are, are connected. Not like that ugly people are bad and beautiful people, like – look at anyone for Trump. But, em, it looks like a cartoon. If you took the villains from a cartoon.
Morrissey – there’s no sense of leadership…
JL – Anything that’s important to mention or what you would like your German audience to know?
Morrissey – Well, ummm, every second I’ve ever spent in Germany, I, I, I, I feel very privileged. I really do. I think it’s so exciting. And it’s been a great friend to me. I mean, I might not be too excited about that European Union, but that doesn’t matter, that really doesn’t matter, that much. I don’t want to be a part of the German Empire. I don’t think England should be a part of the German Empire, which is essentially what the EU is.
JL – It’s a, do you think so? It’s a German Empire?
Morrissey – I think so. Yes. I think a lot of people feel that way. Perhaps that’s why people voted to leave the EU.
JL – But why do people think that?
Morrissey – Because England can’t make any decisions for itself unless it refers to Germany and that’s absurd. No country should be like that.
JL – Angela Merkel’s a Mum of Europe.
Morrissey – But she wisely doesn’t say that much, she keeps very quiet, and uhhh, which is interesting. But I, I feel sad that Germany had to become the rape capital of Europe, which I think is shocking.
JL – the what capital?
Morrissey – Rape capital.
JL – is it, right?
Morrissey – Yes, yes, statistically yes. And it coincides with the, the open borders and the free flow, which is very, very shocking. And a lot of people do think that was a mistake of Angela Merkel. That she initially said, ‘oh, yes, yes, come, everybody, come, wherever you are, whoever you are, come. And then she’s saying, ‘oh, well, whoops, whoops, maybe not’. But, em, so. [in the printed version they put Berlin instead of Germany – and because of open borders, instead of coincides]
JL – So you’re against taking refugees in or are you just saying this should be really controlled or…
Morrissey – Well, it’s a question of multiculturalism and I like Germany to be German, I like France to be French. And I think that when you try to have, um, introduced a multicultural aspect to everything you end up with no culture because you don’t share any language, you don’t share any laws, you don’t share the same sense of liberty. So multiculturalism fails. And all European countries fought for many many years for their identity. And now it suddenly seems to be, they’re saying so what, let’s just throw it away. Anybody can do what they like to Germany, anybody can do what they like to France, and I think that’s quite sad. Because it you travel, if you go on holidays, for example, to Turkey, you want a particular experience. But if you go to Turkey and everybody in the country is speaking, uhhh, Spanish, you think, well this is very strange. So this applies also to England, to Germany, to France. If you arrive in France and everybody is speaking a non-French language it’s very peculiar.
JL – But isn’t America a bit like that? Where it’s like, people coming from all over, or is it different because it’s newly… you know what I thought about , when I went through LA yesterday, for the first time, in a certain way, I felt that you can feel it’s stolen land. In certain way, because, you know, it’s like in Europe, it’s kind of like, things grew. You know, it’s like, and you feel it like, it almost looks like garages, like a lot of fancy garages, and I had this real idea of wonder at what would have happened if the native Americans had time to develop, like high culture. Just thought, another thinking about that. Maybe, it’s stupid.
Morrissey – Well, it felt stupid, but you must remember also that every single country has a, it’s own history of uhh, revolution, and liberation, and so forth. And other countries don’t have your history. So it’s, uhh, it’s not easy to blend, uhh, people together and just assume that they will get on, and understand the same things, it can’t happen. People might, uhh, travel and migrate, but they bring all of their, uhhh, they bring all of their religion, and all of their beliefs with them. And they try to establish it in the country they’ve gone to, and that’s when the confusion starts.
JL – So you’re just saying, like, everybody should stay where they are?
Morrissey – No! I don’t think that! You stay where you are? Stop it! No, but I think it’s important for every country to retain the identity that it has, because it didn’t come easy. Millions of people died for the German identity, millions of people died for the British identity. And if you respect all those people, the loss of their lives, then you must protect your own country to a great extent. You cannot say that the identity of your country is nothing. You cannot say that. And that seems to be happening throughout Europe.
JL – I’m very German, unfortunately.
Morrissey – Please be proud, please be proud, please be proud.
Rape capital sounds far worse than the point he went on to make – but there had been reports of increased sexual assaults in Germany – “Crimes committed by [asylum-seeking] immigrants saw a disproportionate increase last year — there’s nothing there we can gloss over,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. He said when it came to violent crimes there were “about 90 per cent more immigrant suspects in 2016” than in the prior year. (Financial Times, April, 2017) https://www.ft.com/content/b5a8867e-28ea-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c And Merkel’s policy was so disastrous, in terms of resources, organisation and logistics, that in March 2016 the EU negotiated with Turkey to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-towards-a-new-policy-on-migration/file-eu-turkey-statement-action-plan
On the 11th of December he posted a statement on Facebook, objecting to the way his words had been sensationalised and editorialised:
He’s telling the truth – he didn’t say he would literally kill Trump, he wouldn’t support rape, child abuse, or sexual assault, Der Speigal didn’t convey his views fairly and (so far) he has never spoken to the print media (I hope he walks back on this – they have nothing to lose by monstering him if he would never speak to them anyway, and young journalists only know the myth, which his blog, (run by his nephew) wittingly or unwittingly, reinforces.
Der Spiegel released the audio, timestamping the most controversial passages, so that most people would miss the wider context. He had talked about Trump, migration and Spacey and that was enough for everyone to declare that he had been caught lying.
He released a video statement on his nephew’s YouTube account, on the 17th December 2017:
Suddenly, I was sympathizing with sexual harassment. I was apparently sympathizing with pedophilia, I was sympathizing with rape, I was sympathizing with everything that would persuade anybody on the planet to stop listening to me. Of course, none of those assumptions were true. I do not support anything like that. You can hear it even in the tone of my voice… However, this is the world we now live in with the print media. It seems to me that, in the first place, they get very angry or very excited if you stop to say something that people are listening to or that reflect the will of the people. They get very nervous. They won’t allow it. They shut it down and so forth… But also, it seems to me that, in England at the moment, the right wing has adopted a left wing stance, and the left wing has adopted a right wing stance, so everybody’s confused, and nobody seems to know what people mean. This shuts down free speech. This shuts down any open debate about anything. And consequently, we’re all in a mess, and we don’t know where we stand… So I fear that the campaign for Low in High School and for the surrounding singles was derailed and damaged purposely by the haters. They’re not listening to the music. They’re not listening to anything, really. They see my name, and they want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And as I said, in many ways, they do succeed. There’s not really that much you can do about it.
It would only get worse, as the old press homophobia that had seen him falsely accused of racism, crashed into the online tribal ‘culture wars’ where everyone had to use the same words in the same way to express the same ideas or they were ‘THE OTHER SIDE’.
Side Note: Almost all of Morrissey’s opinions are left-leaning – although he’s too much of a loner for organised politics. He could be used as a bellweather, since everything he picks up on turns into an urgent debate further down the line, viz.
The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds. In the heightened emotions of America’s public debate on migration, a simple moral and political dichotomy prevails. It is “right-wing” to be “against immigration” and “left-wing” to be “for immigration.” But the economics of migration tell a different story. (Angela Negle, American Affairs Journal, November 2018) https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/11/the-left-case-against-open-borders/
In parts of the left, there is an unattractive blind spot that misses the importance of collective attachment to an inherited landscape, both physical and emotional. That landscape is not immutable but it shapes a sense of belonging and context. For many Leave voters, particularly those who have traditionally voted Labour, the emotional landscape of “England” has offered a way to express communal values neglected during 30 years of excessive individualism, licensed by both left and right. (The Observer, January 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/17/proud-to-be-english-how-we-can-shape-a-progressive-patriotism
… One grandstands when one makes a contribution to public moral discourse that aims to convince others that one is “morally respectable.” By this we mean that grandstanding is a use of moral talk that attempts to get others to make certain desired judgments about oneself, namely, that one is worthy of respect or admiration because one has some particular moral quality—for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project. (Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Summer 2016)
The internet… has encouraged us to hole ourselves up in ideological fortresses; to build moats around our value systems, to pull up our mental drawbridges; and to fire verbal arrows at anyone with a different perspective… with little room for uncertainty or nuance. The way we are pressured to “cancel” public figures we once admired is spiteful and reductive… It means many of us have a predetermined position on news stories even before they break. (Dani Garavelli, The Scotsman, October 2020)
While fluidity of identity, plurality, and multiplicity are always claimed on behalf of the VC members — partly to cover up their own invariably wealthy, privileged, or bourgeois-assimilationist background — the enemy is always to be essentialized. Since the desires animating the VC are in large part priests’ desires to excommunicate and condemn, there has to be a strong distinction between Good and Evil, with the latter essentialized. Notice the tactics. X has made a remark/has behaved in a particular way — these remarks/ this behavior might be construed as transphobic/sexist etc. So far, okay. But it’s the next move which is the kicker. X then becomes defined as a transphobe/sexist etc. Their whole identity becomes defined by one ill-judged remark or behavioral slip. Once the VC has mustered its witch-hunt, the victim (often from a working class background, and not schooled in the passive-aggressive etiquette of the bourgeoisie) can reliably be goaded into losing their temper, further securing their position as pariah/latest to be consumed in feeding frenzy. (Mark Fisher, Exiting The Vampire Castle, 2013)